Renaissance Ranch

How to Determine if You Are Enabling a Loved One’s Addiction

Oct 5, 2022

When a loved one is battling with substance abuse there usually is someone on the outside who is enabling the behavior. It can be with the best intentions that a loved one ends up enabling their spouse, child, sibling, or friend. Often, people end up creating this type of relationship as a result of their desperate attempts to control or fix the situation. 

Enabling someone with a drug or alcohol addiction is dangerous for a variety of reasons, as this only encourages that substance abuse to continue. When you are enabling someone who abuses substances such as opioids, benzos, or alcohol, you are reinforcing the behavior by allowing it to continue. 

That is what enabling is, reinforcing problematic behavior rather than solving it. While you may think you are being supportive or loving, you are fueling the addiction that is stripping your loved one of the life they deserve. 

In terms of addiction, enabling can be evident in many different ways. A few examples of enabling can include:

  • Making excuses or denial
  • Providing financial support
  • Sacrificing your well-being and neglecting your needs

Making Excuses

Denying the severity of the problem and brushing it aside can be common, as coming to terms with the reality that your loved one has an addiction can be tough. You might be ignoring the issue altogether to avoid conflict. This passive stance can lead to more consistent use. Your loved one will likely feel as though they can continue to use substances with no consequences regarding the relationship. 

To take it a step further, you may even find yourself making excuses for your loved one. You might try to cover for them during family gatherings or make excuses for their absence or out-of-character behavior. They will become accustomed to this and may even expect you to have their back each time they miss an event or seem short-tempered. 

Making excuses for your loved one may even become habitual for you if it goes on for a length of time. You may not even think about it anymore, as it has become normal to have quick responses to questions or suspicions of others. 

Financial Support

This is a big one. It is very common to see enabling in the form of providing financial assistance to those who are battling substance abuse. Addiction, depending on the substance used, can be a costly habit. Bills may start to go unpaid as more and more funds go toward buying drugs or alcohol. Your loved one may even end up homeless or bouncing around from place to place. 

Job loss or unemployment is a common consequence of addiction. It can be tempting to want to pay bills for your loved one when you know they are struggling. No one wants to see a friend or family member living on the street or struggling to eat. This is why so many find themselves providing financial support to their loved ones who are battling addiction. 

Depending on your financial status, this is only sustainable for so long. You have your own bills to pay, after all. Chances are, as the addiction progresses, the financial support needed is only going to increase. If you continue to help provide assistance regarding things like housing, utilities, and food, your loved one is likely to continue using substances as you are helping to meet their needs. 

Neglecting Your Needs

This one relates to the two previously mentioned examples and is a consequence of each. If you are constantly stressing about making excuses and covering for your loved one as a result of their addiction, you are likely not caring for your mental health and well-being. You are probably consumed by efforts to make it seem like things are well when you know they are not. This can be extremely overwhelming and burdensome. 

Additionally, if you are draining your bank account and running up your credit cards to help meet the needs of your loved one, you are most likely neglecting some of your own basic needs. 

Typically, if you find yourself in the position of an enabler, you care about the person struggling with addiction very deeply. If you are a mother, father, sibling, or spouse, you would likely do anything to keep your loved one safe and try to fix things so they don’t feel the need to use substances anymore. 

It is important to realize that the situation is completely out of your control. The next step is to seek help for you and your loved one. Consider getting involved in family education classes to learn how to heal and understand your role in supporting the recovery of your loved one. 

Enabling is very common among family members and close friends of those struggling with drug or alcohol addiction. Unfortunately, this can often lead to increased use and a longer duration of substance use. It is important to understand and be able to recognize when you might be enabling someone’s addiction. A few common examples can include making excuses, providing help financially, or prioritizing your loved one’s needs over your own. No one wants to admit that their loved one has an addiction to drugs or alcohol, so it can be tempting to try to fix the issue by giving more support in hopes it will make a difference. At Renaissance Ranch, we understand how addiction can affect loved ones and offer family groups that are designed to approach topics from your specific perspective. If you or someone you love is battling addiction, call Renaissance Ranch today at (801) 308-8898.